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Just Back From Costa Rica (San Jose & La Fortuna): June 2014

Harlingen, TX
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Just Back From Costa Rica (San Jose & La Fortuna): June 2014

Hi, Friends -

I have just returned from four days in Costa Rica (1 day in San Jose and 3 days in La Fortuna). The following is information that you may find useful in planning your trip to those areas:

San Jose

1) I stayed for one night in Hotel Presidente. My positive review of this hotel has already been published by TripAdvisor.

2) A taxi (Taxi Aeropuerto) from the airport to downtown San Jose (Hotel Presidente) cost $30. The Taxi Aeropuerto stand (unmarked) is next to the car rental booths on the far right after your luggage is scanned in Customs. Or, simply walk outside and hail a taxi when you exit Customs.

3) Ignore the bright yellow signs at the money exchange booths at the airport that scream "You Need Local Money." You don't. I found US dollars widely accepted at restaurants, taxis, and my hotel. Remember to use small bills ($5, $10, $20) in taxis, museums, and restaurants and bigger bills ($50, $100) in hotels. Keep in mind that if you pay with US dollars, you may receive change in Colones and/or dollars.

4) I experienced little to no harassment from hawkers and touts. The only incident I experienced was a "sick pregnant wife" sob story from a man at the gate of the Teatro Nacional.

5) A good meal was had at Nuestra Tierra Restaurant.

6) Museo de Jade: $15 entry fee. 5 separate floors of polished jade and other artifacts from indigenous peoples, with 1 to 2 rooms of artifacts on each floor. Photos without flash okay.

7) Museo de Oro Precolombino y Numismatica: $11 entry fee. Photos without flash okay.

8) Teatro Nacional: $7 entry fee. Free guided tours in english and spanish. Photos without flash okay.

9) The $29 departure tax must be paid at the airport before checking-in with your airline and collecting your boarding passes.

10) There is no re-stamping of your passport by immigration authorities during your departure process at the airport. The departure process (dropped off at airport by taxi, paid departure tax, check-in with airline and obtained boarding passes, security screening) took approximately 35 minutes at around 10:30 in the morning.

La Fortuna

1) An Interbus transfer from San Jose to La Fortuna was around 3 hours and cost $47. The Interbus driver stopped at Mi Ranchito (souvenir shop with clean bathrooms) for 15 minutes at the halfway point between San Jose and La Fortuna. The prices for souvenirs were better than what I found in La Fortuna.

2) La Catarata de la Fortuna (La Fortuna Waterfall): A 4 kilometer, 45-minute uphill walk from the main road (take a taxi!). Entry fee $10. New stairs at the beginning of the descent to the waterfall quickly become older, uneven, and much more treacherous the closer you get to the bottom and nearer to the waterfall.

3) I stayed for three nights at Hotel Cerro Azul. My very positive review of this hotel has already been published by TripAdvisor.

4) I paid $100 for a tour of the Tenorio Volcano National Park with Eccoterra. The tour bus ride from La Fortuna to the Park was 1 1/2 hours each way, with a 4-hour round trip hike (the Pinol Trail) inside the Park. Sites included the Rio Celeste Waterfall, Blue Lagoon, Bubbling Spring, Mirador, and the Mixing Point. Lunch at a small soda near the entrance to the Park was included in the tour. WARNING: A smooth, flat, concrete path at the entrance to the Park quickly becomes a muddy, cobbled, uphill/downhill path for the rest of the way through the Park, and becomes an absolute muddy mess in any rain showers (light or heavy). Bring a poncho at a minimum and rubber boots with waterproof (GoreTex) pants/shirt/jacket at a maximum.

5) Arenal Volcano National Park: $35 each way by taxi from/to La Fortuna. Entry fee $8. The Waterfall Trail, Saino Trail, and Hormiga Trail at the Arenal Observatory Lodge were relatively flat and made of concrete or crushed stone. There is a nice view of Arenal Lake and the volcano from the Lodge, with access to the Cerro Chato Trail, Old Lava Trail, and Los Cangrejos Trail (varying degrees of difficulty to hike, from easy to difficult).

6) Meters on the red taxis start at 615 Colones when you are first picked-up.

7) Good meals were had at La Cascada Restaurant, Restaurant Don Rufino, Mar and Tierra Restaurant, and Novillitos Restaurant.

8) An Interbus transfer from La Fortuna to the airport in San Jose cost $47 and took 2 hours 20 minutes, which included a 15-minute rest stop once again at Mi Ranchito.

Comments and questions from other TripAdvisor members are welcome.

Slovenia
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for Costa Rica
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1. Re: Just Back From Costa Rica (San Jose & La Fortuna): June 2014

Weatherman, that is one finely detailed report that will help many visitors.

One question: at AOL trails, how busy were they? By fellow hikers and by wildlife.

Thaks!

Cahuita, Costa Rica
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2. Re: Just Back From Costa Rica (San Jose & La Fortuna): June 2014

I like your very clear mini-reviews of each place and activity on your vacation. It makes for quick and easy reference.

A lot of questions are asked about San Jose and whether it is worth spending time there. Would you recommend spending time there?

Harlingen, TX
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3. Re: Just Back From Costa Rica (San Jose & La Fortuna): June 2014

@xelas -

Thank you. While I was hiking on the AOL (Arenal Observatory Lodge) trails (Waterfall, Saino, Hormiga), I encountered very few other tourists. The only major wildlife that I saw while on the trails was a very large brown bird (looked like a combination of a turkey and a pheasant) and his/her smaller chick. Honestly, I saw more wildlife (butterflies, hummingbirds) around the flowering plants near the AOL seismograph building.

@Sara F -

Thank you. I had a very long weekend off from work, so I wanted to get a quick taste of both the capitol and countryside of Costa Rica. My plane landed in San Jose at 11:35 AM and I arrived at my hotel shortly afterwards. I spent the rest of the afternoon touring the major sites in the city. When I checked out the next morning and headed to La Fortuna, I said to myself that I had spent just enough time in San Jose, as it really is just a modern city lacking in a significant number of tourist sights and old, colonial-type buildings. If my vacation was one day longer, I think I would have spent one more day in San Jose so that I could have seen the Poas Volcano, which isn't too far from the city.

Harlingen, TX
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4. Re: Just Back From Costa Rica (San Jose & La Fortuna): June 2014

I forgot to mention that at restaurants, the propina (tip) wasn't included in the bill. In addition to the food/drinks, the restaurants tacked-on an IVA or ITA (VAT tax?) and servicio (service). I was told that the servicio wasn't a tip to the waiter, but rather a tip to the guys working in the kitchen. Not sure if that was true or not, so I usually threw in between $1 and $4 for a tip to the waiter.

Costa Rica
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5. Re: Just Back From Costa Rica (San Jose & La Fortuna): June 2014

Tax is 13% and tip is 10% and is sometimes added to the price shown on the menu and sometimes not. You will have to read the menu to find out if it is included or not.

Sorry, weatherman, but someone put a little "con" on you because the 10% "servicio" is the tip. It's supposed to be shared amongst the wait staff and the kitchen staff - but sometimes it is and sometimes it's not. However, leaving something on the table is fine and makes someone smile.

Harlingen, TX
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6. Re: Just Back From Costa Rica (San Jose & La Fortuna): June 2014

@ HattieCostaRica -

"Sorry, weatherman, but someone put a little "con" on you because the 10% "servicio" is the tip."

Well now I, and tens of thousands of other TA members, know! :-)

Nowhere
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for Playa Samara
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7. Re: Just Back From Costa Rica (San Jose & La Fortuna): June 2014

That's one fine and well-organized review. Excellent.

Also, tipping to any extent was largely introduced by North Americans. Before US tourism was omnipresent, tipping generally consisted of rounding up a bit. These days, it's customary to leave just a tad more but certainly not as much as you would leave up north. If you do, nobody will complain but it does corrupt the system a bit. Not that anyone has ever really complained about that, either...

The service charge is supposed to be split between all employes - including kitchen staff. It does not exclude the waiter. Some greedy owners also insist on taking a cut - and they are not supposed to.

In the end, when you want to reward your particular server for excellent service, it's perfectly fine to leave something extra. In some restaurants, waiters add the tip to the generally pool that gets split between everyone, in others, they do not.

Costa Rica
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8. Re: Just Back From Costa Rica (San Jose & La Fortuna): June 2014

Weatherman: I should have said -- "Great review!" I got side-tracked and the others have put me back on the right track. It's really good that you have written in so much detail - should be very helpful to others.

Harlingen, TX
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9. Re: Just Back From Costa Rica (San Jose & La Fortuna): June 2014

@framptonian -

Thank you. I usually didn't leave very much, only about $1 to $4, as I said previously. The food was excellent, especially the grass-fed beef and the chicharrones!

@ HattieCostaRica -

Thank you. I have taken A LOT of information from TripAdvisor over the years, so I try to give back whenever I can. Take a look at my Forum history and hotel reviews and you'll see I get pretty specific, LOL.

San Diego...
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10. Re: Just Back From Costa Rica (San Jose & La Fortuna): June 2014

I be traveling on November and I was wondering what is the latest bus I can catch to La Fortuna at the airport? My plane will arrive at 8:15pm.